Dennis C. Sasso

One Year After

On this first anniversary of January 6, we are especially reminded of the power of speech.

We are living through times when respectful discourse is belittled and rational debate shunned.  This anniversary of the assault on our democracy calls on all of us to assume responsibility for the sacredness of words, especially the words of the documents that bind us together as Americans:  the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; the Bill of Rights; oaths and pledges of citizenship, honor, respect, truth, justice, and peace.

Over 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah lamented that “Mother Rachel” wept for her children. Today, Lady Liberty weeps and yearns to be comforted.  Let us bring comfort to Lady Liberty.  Let us not allow discord and violence, deception and hurt, distrust and abusive language to become America’s legacy.  Let us cure the virus and heal the soul of our nation.

The ancient sages remind us:  “It is not your responsibility to complete the work; but neither are you free to desist from it.”  Unafraid of the unfinished task, let us assume it willingly, purposefully, lovingly.  Democracy is an unfinished task; it is not just an inheritance from the past.  It is the vision, the words, and the labor we gift to the future.

Carl Schulz (1829-1906), a Union army general during the American Civil War, said:  “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”  And on the battlefield of Gettysburg, where Americans had violently turned against Americans, President Abraham Lincoln prayed (November 19, 1863):  “…We here highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  Let this be our pledge on this January 6, 2022.

About the Author
Dennis Sasso is Senior Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Indianapolis, Indiana. He is Affiliate Professor of Jewish Studies at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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